Whereas Arkansas soccer nonetheless has work to do to climb again into the AP Ballot, there are some acquainted faces within the high 25.
For the second straight week, Illinois — led by head coach Bret Bielema and offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. — is ranked. The Combating Illini jumped up six spots to No. 18 after beating Minnesota 26-14 over the weekend.
The win improved Illinois soccer to 6-1, which is already extra wins than it had final 12 months, its first season below the previous Arkansas head coach. Bielema has the Illini ranked for the primary time since 2011 and in good place to complete the 12 months ranked for the primary time since 2007.
As you may anticipate within the Massive Ten, Illinois has accomplished it principally with protection. In reality, the Illini have the highest scoring and complete protection within the FBS — forward of the likes of Georgia and Iowa. Nonetheless, a key to the robust begin has been a much-improved offense below the steering of Lunney, the previous Arkansas quarterback and assistant coach.
Lunney spent the earlier two years because the offensive coordinator at UTSA below fellow former Arkansas assistant Jeff Traylor earlier than being employed by his former boss at Arkansas to inject some life into Illinois’ offense heading into Yr 2 of the Bielema period. He has accomplished precisely that.
Final season, the Illini averaged simply 20.2 factors on 329.Eight yards, which ranked 116th and 112th within the nation, respectively. Their numbers nonetheless aren’t nice in 2022, however they’re up considerably from that, as they’re placing up 26.zero factors and 415.9 yards per sport. These marks rank 87th and 62nd nationally.
The offense is led by the nation’s high rusher, Chase Brown, who already has 1,059 yards via seven video games. Illinois is using him onerous, as his 192 carries not solely lead the nation, however are 24 greater than anybody else within the FBS.
Assuming he stays wholesome and the protection continues taking part in at a excessive stage, Illinois very properly might find yourself representing its division within the Massive Ten Championship. A street journey to No. Four Michigan looms on Nov. 19, however the remainder of its schedule seems very manageable.
The most important challenger within the West — by far the weaker division within the Massive Ten — seems to be Purdue. The Illini and Boilermakers are tied at Three-1 and nobody else within the division is above .500 in convention play. These two groups meet on Nov. 12 in Champaign, Sick. Apart from that, Illinois travels to Nebraska (Three-Four) and Northwestern (1-5) and hosts Michigan State (Three-Four).
There’s higher than a 2 in Three probability that Bielema’s squad wins no less than 9 video games this 12 months they usually have a reasonably good shot at reaching double-digit wins, in line with the SP+.
Michigan and Ohio State look like on a collision course as soon as once more for a spot within the Faculty Soccer Playoff, with the loser seemingly nonetheless in place to play in a New Yr’s Six bowl. Bielema and Lunney might play spoiler, nevertheless it’s extra seemingly that Illinois will find yourself in one of many different bowls with Massive Ten tie-ins.
Why is that notable for Arkansas soccer followers? There are three bowls that pit the SEC in opposition to the Massive Ten: the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, ReliaQuest (previously Outback) Bowl in Tampa and Music Metropolis Bowl in Nashville.
It will seemingly require a powerful end by the Razorbacks and/or a slip-up or two by Illinois down the stretch, nevertheless it’s not fully exterior the realm of chance that Arkansas meets its former coach within the postseason. Certainly, the toughest stretch of Arkansas’ season is over, and it has 4 very winnable video games remaining on the schedule with Auburn, Liberty, LSU and Missouri. Ole Miss, at present within the high 10, initiatives because the hardest opponent left however Arkansas ought to have a fighter’s probability in that one because it’s in Fayetteville.
Chad Morris’ Darkish Magic
It’s unclear precisely what his function is as a senior offensive analyst, however Chad Morris has introduced his dangerous mojo to South Florida.
The identical man who was arguably the worst head coach in SEC historical past at Arkansas, contributed to Gus Malzahn being fired at Auburn and oversaw a pair of prolonged streaks come to an finish at Texas powerhouse Allen Excessive Faculty is now on workers of one of many worst groups in school soccer.
After a considerably respectable residence loss to Tulane, the Bulls are actually 1-6 and examine in at No. 110 — out of 131 FBS groups — in ESPN’s Soccer Energy Index.
The aspect of the ball Morris is presumably serving to with has carried out about as you’d anticipate. South Florida is tied for 92nd in scoring offense (25.Three ppg) and ranks 102nd in complete offense (351.1 ypg).
He’s additionally labored his magic, if that’s what you wish to name it, on USF quarterback Gerry Bohanon. A starter for a top-10 Baylor group final season, the Earle native has seen his numbers drop throughout the board.
Bohanon is finishing simply 56.9 % of his passes for six.7 yards per try with six touchdowns and 6 interceptions. His quarterback ranking had dipped from 146.6 final 12 months to 117.9 and he ranks ninth out of 11 certified quarterbacks within the AAC with a 55.9 Complete QBR on ESPN. That’s worse than the drop former Auburn quarterback Bo Nix skilled between his freshman 12 months, earlier than Morris arrived as Auburn’s offensive coordinator, and his sophomore season in 2020, the 12 months Morris forged his spell on the Tigers.
There’s a superb probability it’s a one-year cease in Tampa for Morris, as South Florida head coach Jeff Scott is on the new seat and could possibly be fired earlier than the tip of the season. He’s in his third season and has a Morris-like Four-24 report that features a 1-17 mark in convention play
Gus Malzahn’s Resurgence
Talking of Gus Malzahn, the Fort Smith native and former Arkansas offensive coordinator is having fun with an ideal Yr 2 at UCF.
Though the Knights had a disappointing six-point loss in opposition to Louisville earlier within the season, they’re sitting at 5-1 and are certainly one of three groups who’re unbeaten in convention play with one loss general within the American Athletic Convention.
Whereas Cincinnati and Tulane are ranked, UCF is simply exterior of the highest 25 and will discover its manner into the AP Ballot over the following few weeks as a result of these two groups stay on the schedule. First, the Knights host the Bearcats on Oct. 29 after which they journey to Tulane on Nov. 12.
Malzahn is called an offensive guru and UCF has actually been superb on that aspect of the ball, averaging 41.Three factors (13th within the FBS) and 525.2 yards (fifth within the FBS) with former Ole Miss quarterback John Rhys Plumlee working the present, however additionally it is distinctive on protection.
The Knights haven’t allowed greater than 20 factors in any sport this season and are high 10 nationally in scoring protection, rating seventh at 14.Three factors allowed per sport.
Second Likelihood for Joe Craddock
It could be truthful to put many of the blame for Arkansas’ struggles in 2018 and 2019 on Chad Morris, nevertheless it’s additionally price noting that he didn’t assist himself by hiring a younger, inexperienced offensive coordinator.
Joe Craddock was simply 32 years previous and 4 years faraway from being a graduate assistant at Clemson when Morris introduced him from SMU to Fayetteville to run the Razorbacks’ offense.
When Arkansas pulled the plug on that workers, Craddock landed at UAB as a decent ends coach — fairly the autumn from being a coordinator within the SEC. Nonetheless, he’s now getting one other shot at being an offensive coordinator, as first-year Troy head coach Jon Sumrall employed him for that function this offseason.
Though the Trojans are having a tough time changing it to factors, they’re shifting the ball a lot better this 12 months below Craddock than the earlier workers. He has helped them enhance their yardage output from 336.Four yards per sport (111th within the FBS) to 399.Four (70th).
Troy remains to be 98th in scoring offense at 24.Three factors per sport, however that could be a step up from final 12 months, when it ranked 102nd nationally at 22.Eight factors per sport.
Craddock has additionally already skilled extra wins via barely half a season at Troy than he did in two years at Arkansas, because the Trojans are 5-2 with a good 18-point loss at Ole Miss and four-point loss at Appalachian State being the one blemishes.
Extra protection of former Arkansas soccer coaches from BoAS…